What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Washington?

What happens to your assets after you die depends on individual state laws and whether or not you have will or not at the time of your death. If you die in the state of Washington without a will, your assets will go to your closest relative under Washington‘s intestate succession lawsNot all your assets will be affected by intestate succession laws, however.Those assets that have been transferred to a living trust, life insurance proceeds with a named beneficiary, funds in an IRA,401(k) or other retirement accounts, payable-on-death bank accounts, property owned with someone else in a joint tenancy, and securities held in a transfer-on death account will be handled separately.

Intestate Distribution in WA

In Washington State, which relative receives which assets will depend on whether or not you have living children, parents,or other close relatives at the time of your death. For example, if you die with children but no spouse, parents or siblings, your children will inherit everything. If you die leaving a spouse but no children, parents or siblings, your spouse will inherit everything. However, if you die leaving a spouse and children, the spouse will inherit all your community property and one-half of your individual property. Your children will inherit the other half of your separate property. (Community property is property acquired while you were married and separate property is the property you acquired before marriage.) For other distribution examples and to discuss your own situation or situation of a loved one who is deceasedplease contact a Washington probate attorney for help.

What Your Children Inherit

With respect to the size and eligibility of your children’s inheritance under Washington’s intestate laws, several issues should be considered. First, the size of each child’s share depends on how many children you have. Secondly, for children to be eligible to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the State of Washington must consider them your children, legally. Those issues generally arise with respect to adopted children, foster children, and stepchildren, children placed for adoption,posthumous children, and children born outside of marriage, to name a few.

Children who have been legally adopted will receive an intestate share, just as biological children will. However, foster children and stepchildren who have not been legally adopted w ill not automatically receive a share. Children who have been placed for adoption and who have been legally adopted by another family will also not automatically receive a share . Children who were conceived by you, but not born before your death, will receive a share under Washington s intestate laws. Children who were born outside of marriage may also not receive an automatic share . For example, if a father was not married or in “a registered domestic partnership” with the children’ s mother when she gave birth to them, the child or children may only receive a share if the father‘s paternity is established under Washington law.

As you can see, intestate laws in Washington State can be confusing, especially in regard to non­ traditional families. For this reason,it is wise to draft a will to better control where your assets go after your death.